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Shorthanded Valpo survives Missouri State’s upset bid

Alec Peters. Who else?

NCAA Basketball: Valparaiso at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Alec Peters heard overrated chants all night.

In the end, he got quite the opportunity to silence the Missouri State crowd.

The senior drained three free throws with 5.6 seconds left to break a tie and lift Valpo to an 84-81 road win. For the Crusaders, much of the game turned on who wasn’t on the floor.

Shane Hammink (15 points), who carried Valpo in the first half, fouled out with 6:53 left after committing fouls on consecutive possessions. This put even more weight on Peters’ shoulders (27 points, 11 rebounds), as he battled shot-for-shot with Ronnie Rosseau and Dequon Miller in an exciting final five minutes.

Matt Lottich must leave Springfield encouraged by what he saw.

The Crusaders had their best shooting night of the season (61.6 eFG%) and won a game in the final minutes without two starters available (Adekoya, Hammink). The defense is not yet where it was last season, but that was never a realistic expectation.

For the Bears, the loss is another missed opportunity. Paul Lusk’s team has seemed primed for a breakout ever since it added talented JuCo transfers Rousseau (21 points) and Alize Johnson (21 points, 11 rebounds) over the offseason.

But they let a second half slip away in a winnable game at DePaul and fell to a middling Air Force team on the road last weekend (with Johnson stuck to the bench in foul trouble). For much of this game it seemed the Bears would finally get a momentum-building win. They ultimately didn’t get a star performance out of Miller (13 points, 2 assists) and couldn’t stop a late 7-0 Valpo run.

Nonetheless, this appears to be a team capable of climbing up the MVC standings. Few other league teams have two playmakers like Rousseau and Miller, or a rebounder like Johnson.

The Bears host Oral Roberts on Dec. 14, while the Crusaders return home to face another tough MVC team (Indiana State) on Dec. 17.